Lumpfish

Cyclopterus lumpus

Last updated: April 13, 2022
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
Image Credit Natalia Sidorova/Shutterstock.com

The lumpfish have sticky suction cups on their fins

Lumpfish Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Actinopterygii
Order
Scorpaeniformes
Family
Cyclopteridae
Genus
Cyclopterus
Scientific Name
Cyclopterus lumpus

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Lumpfish Conservation Status

Lumpfish Locations

Lumpfish Locations

Lumpfish Facts

Prey
Crustaceans, worms, jellyfish, herring, sand lance, and more
Group Behavior
  • Solitary
Fun Fact
The lumpfish have sticky suction cups on their fins
Estimated Population Size
Unknown
Biggest Threat
Overfishing
Most Distinctive Feature
The lumpy, gelatinous flesh
Other Name(s)
Lumpsuckers
Gestation Period
1-2 months
Optimum pH Level
Unknown
Habitat
Atlantic and Pacific Oceans
Predators
Skates, seals, sperm whales, sharks, and orcas
Diet
Carnivore
Type
Ray-finned fish
Common Name
Lumpfish
Number Of Species
30

Lumpfish Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Brown
  • Grey
  • Blue
  • Black
  • White
Skin Type
Skin
Lifespan
6-13 years
Weight
Up to 9.5kg (21lbs)
Length
2-61cm (1-24in)

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Lumpfish have suction cups on their fins to attach to various surfaces.

The lumpfish, also known as the lumpsucker, is a family of marine fish that come in many different colors, including blue, brown, and black. There are 30 recognized species spread all over the globe. Their lumpy, uneven, gelatinous skin and balloon-shaped body give them a truly bizarre appearance. While interesting to observe, they generally do not make good aquarium fish as human pets. Unfortunately, there is still a lot we do not understand about their behavior and ecology in the wild.

4 Lumpfish Facts

  • Lumpfish can migrate throughout the year in response to changing environmental conditions. In the winter, they feed in cold waters. In the summer, they move toward shallow waters to breed.
  • Lumpfish are considered to be poor swimmers. They generally stay close to the bottom of the ocean.
  • The Pacific spiny lumpfish, also known as the Japanese spiny lumpfish, is a popular exhibit in Japan for parties and special occasions. In one such novelty exhibit found in Tokyo, the Japanese spiny were attached to balloons in the water.
  • Lumpfish are very useful animals for salmon farmers, because they’re known to eat harmful sea lice that affect the health of the salmon.

Lumpfish Classification and Scientific Name

The scientific name of the lumpfish family is Cycloptridae. This is derived from the combination of two Greek words: kyklos, meaning circle, and pteryx, meaning wing or fin. This refers to the circle-shaped suction discs on their fins. Eight different genera are currently recognized within this family.

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Lumpfish Appearance

The lumpfish have round, balloon shaped bodies with big eyes and fan-like fins. Their scale-less skin, which is covered in bumps, ridges, and fleshy knobs, has been described as leathery and bumpy. Their handy suction discs on their pelvic fins enable them to attach to different surfaces in the face of strong currents. Depending on the species, the lumpfish can vary in size anywhere from 1 inch to 24 inches. Females are generally larger than males, but otherwise they are difficult to tell apart from each other. Lumpfish generally exhibit drab colors, including brown, blue, black, and gray, which can change as they age, but males tend to turn bright colors when attempting to attract a mate.

Lumpfish Distribution, Population, and Habitat

Lumpfish are generally found in shallower marine waters throughout the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans up to a depth of nearly 3,000 feet. The greatest number of species can be found in the northern Atlantic. They are found near the bottom of the ocean, where their subdued colors provide effective camouflage against potential predators.

Very little is known about the population numbers of the lumpfish. In fact, the vast majority of species have not yet been evaluated, but it is considered near threatened by the IUCN Redlist. A species, known simply by its scientific name of Georgimarinus barbatus, has been evaluated, and even that is considered to be data deficient (meaning we don’t have enough population data about them). The greatest threats to their existence include overfishing, habitat change, and large-scale disruptions due to exploration for undersea oil and gas.

Lumpfish Predators and Prey

The lumpfish are primarily carnivorous predators. They will eat almost anything they can find at the bottom of the ocean.

What eats the lumpfish?

The lumpfish is preyed upon by numerous marine animals, including skates, seals, sperm whales, sharks, and orcas. As mentioned previously, camouflage helps them evade predators.

What does the lumpfish eat?

Species that tend to inhabit the ocean floor, including the Pacific or Japanese spiny lumpsucker, consume a diet of worms, crustaceans, and mollusks. Species that tend to travel out more toward the open oceans also consume jellyfish and small fish like herring and sand lances.

Lumpfish Reproduction and Lifespan

As the breeding season approaches, males will move toward shallow water and create a nest in a bedrock crevice or depression in the sea floor. When the female arrives, the male may start to turn bright colors such as red or orange to attract a mate, which is thought to be a proxy for overall health. If she likes what she sees, then the female will lay a mass of more than 100,000 eggs in the nest. The male will then fertilize the eggs and defend the unhatched baby lumpfish from predators without the assistance of the female. In some species, the male may go without food for nearly this entire duration. It will take about a month or two for the eggs to hatch. Shortly after hatching, the baby lumpfish cling to seaweed near the shore and are already fully capable of feeding. When the baby lumpfish finally grow up, they move into deeper and colder water like their parents. In the wild, lumpfish live an average of six to eight years. The oldest known lifespan is 13 years.

Lumpfish in Fishing and Cooking

The lumpfish is considered to be a delicacy in many places around the world, including Canada, Greenland, and Norway. In Iceland, it is even popular enough as a delicacy to occupy a place on the national currency. The female’s eggs, or roe, are sold as affordable caviar. In some countries, caviar only refers to the roe of the sturgeon, but many other kinds of fish can produce roe that pass for caviar as well.

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About the Author

Growing up in rural New England on a small scale farm gave me a lifelong passion for animals. I love learning about new wild animal species, habitats, animal evolutions, dogs, cats, and more. I've always been surrounded by pets and believe the best dog and best cat products are important to keeping our animals happy and healthy. It's my mission to help you learn more about wild animals, and how to care for your pets better with carefully reviewed products.

Lumpfish FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Where do lumpfish live?

They live near the bottom of the ocean floor around the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

Why is it called lumpfish?

The lumpfish is named after the lumpy appearance of its body. It also goes by the alternative name of lumpsucker, which refers to its suctioning ability.

What do lumpfish do?

Lumpfish are slow-moving animals that spend most of their time at or near the bottom of the ocean. Most of their day is occupied by hunting, sleeping, and evading predators.

What makes lumpfish unique?

The lumpfish have suctions on their fins to attach on various surfaces.

Why do people farm lumpfish?

Lumpfish may be farmed for many different reasons, but perhaps the most important is for use with salmon fishing. The lumpfish have a tendency to eat parasitic sea lice that can harm salmon.

Can lumpfish live in freshwater?

Lumpfish do not seem to tolerate freshwater very well. They don’t spend any part of their life in freshwater areas.

Are lumpfish smart?

Their intelligence has not been studied very much, but they appear to have above-average intelligence compared with other marine fish.

How do you look after lumpfish?

The lumpfish are generally not recommended to keep as aquarium pets. They require cold saltwater that may be difficult to maintain in a normal household aquarium setting. Very few if any pet stores actually sell them anyway. Many other kinds of exotic fish would make better pets.

Sources
  1. , Available here: https://www.britannica.com/animal/lumpsucker
  2. , Available here: https://www.montereybayaquarium.org/animals/animals-a-to-z/lumpfish
  3. , Available here: https://www.neaq.org/blog/stuck-on-a-lumpfish/
  4. , Available here: https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/running-ponies/lumpsucker-fish-just-when-you-thought-the-ocean-couldne28099t-get-more-lumpy-and-adhesive/

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